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22 tips on how to speed up Windows XP

Oh no, not another 22 tips list. Everyone knows how to use the defrag on a computer, but most will know that you wont see much changes in the performance. Here are 22 suggestions, other than defrag, that will. Each can enhance the performance and reliability of PC. Best of all, most of them will cost you nothing.

Speed up Windows XP

Don't forget to shrink the Windows directory to create space.

  1. New hardware

    To decrease a system's boot time and increase system performance, use the money you save by not buying defragmentation software (the built-in Windows defragmenter works just fine) and instead equip the computer with an Ultra-133 or Serial ATA hard drive with 8-MB cache buffer.
  2. More memory

    If your PC has less than 512 MB of RAM, add more memory. This is a relatively inexpensive and easy upgrade that can dramatically improve system performance.]
  3. Set Windows to NTSF

    Ensure that Windows XP is utilizing the NTFS file system. If you're not sure, here's how to check.
    1. Double-click on My Computer
    2. Right-click on the C: drive and select Properties
    3. Examine the File System type
    If the File System Type is set to FAT32, change it to NTSF.
    1. Back-up any important data
    2. Click Start and select Run
    3. Type CMD and press OK
    4. At the prompt, type: C: /FS:NTFS and press Enter
    This process may take a while. It's important that the computer remains uninterrupted and is virus-free. The file system used by the bootable drive will be either FAT32 or NTFS. I highly recommend NTFS for its superior security, reliability, and efficiency with larger disk drives.
  4. Disable file indexing

    The indexing service extracts information from documents and other files on the hard drive and creates a "searchable keyword index." As you can imagine, this process can be quite taxing on any system.

    The idea is that the user can search for a word, phrase, or property inside a document, should they have hundreds or thousands of documents and not know the file name of the document they want. Windows XP's built-in search functionality can still perform these kinds of searches without the Indexing service. It just takes longer. The OS has to open each file at the time of the request to help find what you are looking for.

    1. Double-click on My Computer
    2. Right-click on the C: drive and select Properties
    3. Uncheck Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast file searching.
    4. Apply changes to "C: subfolders and files" and click OK
    If a warning or error message appears (such as "Access is denied"), click the Ignore All button.
  5. Update firmware

    Update the PC's video and motherboard chipset drivers. Also, update and configure the BIOS. If the PC has a CD or DVD recorder, check the drive manufacturer's Web site for updated firmware. In some cases you'll be able to upgrade the recorder to a faster speed.
  6. Empty the prefetch folder

    Empty the Windows Prefetch folder every three months or so. Windows XP can "prefetch" portions of data and applications that are used frequently. This makes processes appear to load faster when called upon by you. That's fine. But over time, the prefetch folder may become overloaded with references to files and applications no longer in use. When that happens, Windows XP is wasting time, and slowing system performance, by pre-loading them. Nothing critical is in this folder, and the entire contents are safe to delete.
    1. The prefetch folder can be accessed at C:Windows\prefetch
  7. Update:
    Empty the prefetch folder, is incorrect. Regualar cleaning of the pefetch folder will not improve performance, it will impair it. Prefetching of application data does not occur at boottime. Prefetch files contain data allowing Windows to more efficiently load them. Unused prefetch files have virtually no impact on performance. In any event the prefetch folder is self cleaning after 128 entries. This has been extensively tested.
    For references, check Comcast and Edbott
    .

    Thanks to Larry Miller for mentioning this.

  8. Disk Cleanup

    Once a month, run a disk cleanup.
    1. Double-click on My Computer
    2. Right-click on the C: drive and select Properties
    3. Click the Disk Cleanup button (Right of the Capacity pie graph) and delete all temporary files
  9. ATA/ATAPI Controllers device

    In your Device Manager, double-click on the IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers device, and ensure that DMA is enabled for each drive you have connected to the Primary and Secondary controller. Do this by double-clicking on Primary IDE Channel. Then click the Advanced Settings tab. Ensure the Transfer Mode is set to "DMA if available" for both Device 0 and Device 1. Then repeat this process with the Secondary IDE Channel.
  10. Upgrade the cabling

    As hard-drive technology improves, the cabling requirements to achieve these performance boosts have become more stringent. Be sure to use 80-wire Ultra-133 cables on all of your IDE devices with the connectors properly assigned to the matching Master/Slave/Motherboard sockets. A single device must be at the end of the cable; connecting a single drive to the middle connector on a ribbon cable will cause signaling problems. With Ultra DMA hard drives, these signaling problems will prevent the drive from performing at its maximum potential. Also, because these cables inherently support "cable select," the location of each drive on the cable is important. For these reasons, the cable is designed so drive positioning is explicitly clear.
  11. Remove spyware from the computer

    Use free programs such as AdAware or SpyBot Search & Destroy. Once these programs are installed, be sure to check for and download any updates before starting your search. Anything either program finds can be safely removed. Any free software that requires spyware to run will no longer function once the spyware portion has been removed; if you really want the program even though it contains spyware, simply reinstall it.
  12. Remove unnecessary startup programs

    1. Click Start and select Run
    2. Type MSCONFIG and press OK
    3. Click the StartUp tab and uncheck any items you don't want to start when Windows starts
    Unsure what some items are? Visit the WinTasks Process Library. It contains known system processes, applications, as well as spyware references and explanations. Or quickly identify them by searching for the filenames using Google or another Web search engine.
  13. Uninstall software

    Remove any unnecessary or unused programs from the Add/Remove Programs section of the Control Panel.
  14. Trim down the visual performance

    Turn off any and all unnecessary animations, and disable active desktop. In fact, for optimal performance, turn off all animations. Windows XP offers many different settings in this area. Here's how to change it.
    1. Click on the System icon in the Control Panel
    2. Click on the Advanced tab and select the Settings button located under Performance
    Feel free to play around with the options offered here, as nothing you can change will alter the reliability of the computer; only its responsiveness.
  15. Tweak your register

    If you are an advanced user who is comfortable editing your registry, try some of the performance registry tweaks offered at Tweak XP.
  16. Update Windows

    Visit Microsoft's Windows update site regularly and download all updates labeled Critical. Download any optional updates at your discretion.
  17. Update Anti-virus

    Update your anti-virus software on a weekly, even daily, basis. Make sure you have only one anti-virus software package installed. Mixing anti-virus software is a sure way to spell disaster for performance and reliability.
  18. Minimize your fonts

    Make sure you have fewer than 500 type fonts installed on their computer. The more fonts you have, the slower the system will become. While Windows XP handles fonts much more efficiently than did the previous versions of Windows, too many fonts (that is, anything over 500) will noticeably tax the system.
    1. Fonts are located in C:Windows\fonts
  19. Do not partition the hard drive

    Windows XP's NTFS file system runs more efficiently on one large partition. The data is no safer on a separate partition and a reformat is never necessary to reinstall an operating system. The same excuses people offer for using partitions apply to using a folder instead.

    For example, instead of putting all your data on the D: drive, put it in a folder called "D drive." You'll achieve the same organizational benefits that a separate partition offers, but without the degradation in system performance. Also, your free space won't be limited by the size of the partition; instead, it will be limited by the size of the entire hard drive. This means you won't need to resize any partitions, ever. That task can be time-consuming and also can result in lost data.

  20. Check the system's RAM

    Check the system's RAM to ensure it is operating properly. I recommend using a free program called MemTest86. The download will make a bootable CD or diskette (your choice), which will run 10 extensive tests on the PC's memory automatically after you boot to the disk you created. Allow all tests to run until at least three passes of the 10 tests are completed. If the program encounters any errors, turn off and unplug the computer, remove a stick of memory (assuming you have more than one), and run the test again. Remember, bad memory cannot be repaired, but only replaced.
  21. Disable unnecessary services

    Windows XP loads a lot of services that you most likely do not need. To determine which services you can disable, visit the Black Viper site for Windows XP configurations.
  22. "Launch folder Windows in a separate process"

    If you're sick of a single Windows Explorer window crashing and then taking the rest of your OS down with it, then follow this tip.
    1. Open My Computer
    2. Click on Tools, then Folder Options and click on the View tab
    3. Scroll down to "Launch folder Windows in a separate process" and enable this option.
    You'll have to reboot your machine for this option to take effect.
  23. Clean your hardware

    At least once a year, open the computer's cases and blow out all the dust and debris. While you're in there, check that all the fans are turning properly. Also inspect the motherboard capacitors for bulging or leaks.

Following any of these suggestions should result in noticeable improvements to the performance and reliability of your computer. If you still want to defrag a disk, remember that the main benefit will be to make your data more retrievable in the event of a crashed drive.

Do you have more tips on how to speed up your computer?


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